Exclusive: ‘KHKT’ Producer Opens Up About the Show Going Off-air
The Dipika Kakar, Karan V Grover starrer was known for bringing quality content to television.
Recently, viewers of Star Plus’ daily soap Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum (KHKT) were taken aback when news of the popular show, known for breaking the clutter on primetime TV, got out. Especially since the show, starring Dipika Kakar, Ibrahim, and Karan V Grover in the lead, was the no. 1 Indian television show in the UK the whole of last week and registered a BARC rating of 1.8 (and has even touched 2.3 in the course of its run), when it was taken off-air. In fact, the show has registered ratings of 2.0 this week.
Producer and creator of the show, Sandiip Sikcand, has now spoken exclusively to The Quint, revealing why the show has been taken off-air prematurely, how BARC rating drives TV content, working with Dipika and Karan, and the lessons on TV industry that the show has taught him.
The axing of Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum came as a shock to the viewers of the show. Did this come as a surprise to you also or did you have an inkling?
It was a big surprise for me because this TRP thing... I was always very sure that we have to go higher and higher. Definitely, that was the main aim. But the TRP was somewhere steady and, 1.9 TRP is not a bad TRP at all. You have shows at much lower TRP which are running for two-three years on other channels and stuff. So, yes. But then at the same time, as I’ve said, channel knows what they are doing the best.
So, when they liked my show and approved it, I didn’t question them and say, “Why did you like my show and what is so special about it?” I accepted their offer with humility and exactly when they wanted to discontinue the show, again, I did not ask any questions. I just said, “fine” and accepted it gracefully.
The show just registered 2.0 rating this week, after the show has been taken off-air? How does that make you feel?
Fabulous. We walk out with our heads held high.
The TRPs have been decent to good, so everybody wants to know why Star Plus decided to take it off-air at a short notice of one month, when shows with the same ratings have been running for a long time on Star and other channels too?
Somebody messaged me saying that “I think your heroine was leaving the show and that’s why the show has been shut down”, and somebody turned around and said that the set’s lease has been over. You know, there are some really stupid theories going out in the market. But, the fact of the matter is that it is a channel decision and I completely respect it. I will go with what the channel has agreed upon and decided. I have been in a channel position in 2006. So, I have worked on the other side. I needed to know the channel’s understanding and their markets. For us, it’s just making the show. For them, it is advertising, sales, marketing, and research, which honestly, I don’t think makes a show. I mean, the show is always made creatively and from the heart. But yes, you can never forget the business side and the corporate side of any show. So, I really am not the right person to answer this.
Do you feel that one-month notice to end the show is unfair? Especially, for a show which is not really struggling at 1-1.2 but has a good 1.8-2.0. Other shows on the same channel with TRPs around 1 or less got a three-month notice.
At this point of time, I really don’t know what is fair, what is unfair; what is right, what is wrong. It’s okay, you know. For me, it is a show which is very close to my heart because I think, the show was different. It was new and fresh. So, there’s no point in probing, asking, begging, pleading and fighting. For me, it’s like the best way is to walk out with your head held high and hope to do more work and new shows. But yes, one thing this has definitely taught me is that I don’t think I need to make different content for TRP ever again. That is one thing that I have decided. I think, the fresh content, the so-called new take, I will reserve for the OTT platform.
Do we need different rating parameters for different shows as each show has a different set of audience?
Like I have said, TRP is very important for any producer, me included. If any producer says TRP doesn’t matter, they are a liar. The way these TRPs are calculated and measured is something else. Which are the centers, which are the markets, how many reading machines are installed - that I don’t know. Whether it’s alright or wrong, Ulta hai, pulta hai, but wahi mai baap hai. So you have to follow that. I had said that when I start producing shows, I will always make content that people will look up and say wow, what show, excellent. I got that for Dhai Kilo Prem. And for Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum, I have got even more... immense. But the story is that my show shuts in 9 months.
Financially, that is not feasible for any production house. It’s not feasible for any broadcaster. What KHKT has taught me is, I am no longer going to make hatke shows and good shows. If the ghisa-pita (same old) stuff sells, I will sell the best ghisa pita stuff. Why should I be the crusader and say ‘Naya karte hain, kuch alag karte hain. ‘Bhaad me jao kisi ko dekhna nahi hai toh main kyun kisi ka dil jalaoon’? Why the hell should I do it? I also rather be a TRP magnet producer. I’d rather be that ‘Sandiip ki show ki TRP aati hai’ types. And all this sensible, nice, hatke concepts I will put out on OTT.
You had written a very strong, independent and empowering female character in Sonakshi Rastogi, not common for daily soaps.
For television, the two shows that I made - Dhai Kilo Prem and Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum had very strong female characters because that is the kind of women I believe in. Considering the kind of women I’ve been around, at the workplace and at home, the women who take a stand, women who are strong, who know their mind, women who know what they want. I think, television still needs women who you need to empathise with, who you need to feel bad for, as this word that is constantly used, you need to feel bad for her, you need to empathise with her. Because the one thing that constantly got thrown at my face was, “Sonakshi ke liye bura nahi lagta hai”. So the point is, I think, all my shows now are going to be, where you will feel miserably bad for the women. You’re going to feel really bad for them.
But the track where Sonakshi was shown to be weak when the Sippy family was targeting her didn’t get that great a response from the KHKT audience, did it?
This is something I think should go out to people. A lot of people kept saying that we miss the old Sonakshi. We miss the old romance of Rohit and Sonakshi. The rating was always between 1.6 and 1.8. We never went above it. And we were wondering because every publication and website gave it like 4-5 stars. They said ‘oh finally something fresh, new and something good’. I was overwhelmed and really happy with the reviews. In fact, all of us were.
But the rating never went above 1. 8. The moment we brought in some drama during Sonakshi’s wedding, which was very TV - a psychopath lover and all that, the ratings touched 2.3. And everybody was abusing us ‘ki tumne ise typical TV bana diya’. But rating to badha na? So we said wedding is done, let’s come back to our normal KHKT storytelling. Again we came down to 1.7-1.8. And then when the whole drama against Sonakshi was going on we touched a 1.9 again. All this analysis has made one thing very clear, that online everyone says ‘achcha show hai, excellent show hai’, but that does not translate into ratings. And eventually, the business is about ratings. In television nobody cares - the viewer, the broadcaster, the producer, the actor - nobody gives a damn if you make a good show. They only care about, not even a hit show, a TRP show.
Since this stint was short-lived, would you want to work with Karan and Dipika again because their chemistry was loved by the audience?
Definitely! Karan V Grover is like a bad habit you know. You can’t get rid of it, so one thing is for sure that any show I’ll conceive in future, I think Karan V Grover will always be the first who will have the right of refusal. Where Dipika is considered, yes a 100 per cent! She is so professional and a wonderful person to work with, so obviously would love to (work with her).
I don’t speak about and probably the first time I’m speaking (about this), but someone warned me against working with Karan Grover. Like, there was a lot of dirty crap spoken about him, which I think the person should be really shameful of. But Karan Grover is, I think, Indian television’s finest actors and I swear. He and Dipika together, have been pure magic. This magic is something that I will keep in my heart for years and years to come, and even when I make TRP-driven shows, I will always tell them that, “listen, bring chemistry like Rohit and Sonakshi’s”.
I may work with Karan in another show. So, I’ll keep reminding him that ‘listen, remember your chemistry with Dipika? Give that chemistry’.
After being known as Simar, Dipika reinvented herself majorly with Sonakshi Rastogi in KHKT...
The credit also goes to her because she wanted to do something different. Like when we started, she said, “Listen I want to break the image of Simar and help me do something fantastic”. I think it’s your effort, it comes from the person first, you know if the person wants to do something then you also feel excited like ‘yes if she wants to do something different let’s write something different.’
A lot of the audience that wants to watch different content has left TV I guess...
I thought maybe I can bring that audience, which has left TV, back. It did bring some people back, but not enough. I will do OTT content in the future and I will produce films because that is a goal. But for me, TV will always be my identity. That’s where I started off from. Like the stage. Till today I do theatre.
Would you every consider taking KHKT to an OTT platform?
No... see Kahan Hum Kahan Tum is done, it’s over. You know there’s no point in living in your past. No point in bringing back things that have already been done. You always need to think fresh. I will probably think of something better than Kahaan Hum Kahaan Tum for the OTT platform, a 110%.
How will you wrap the story up in a month because there are so many tracks and story lines open?
We are from TV. We can make Sonakshi a film star in one episode and then bring her on road in another. That is the magic of TV! Eventually, it’s going to be a happy ending and everything will be fine and that’s the least of anybody’s worries. That is not a problem. the only thing is we want to end it in a nice manner, in a logical manner, but yes there is a time constraint, we have to close a few things quickly. We’ve been in a very intense love story.
Rohit and Sonakshi will come together and open up about what Nishi did and punish her. Nishi is going to be put behind bars and everybody will know her reality. And Sonakshi will come back to the Sippy house, and Ronakshi will live happily ever after, so yeah its as simple as that. We had a whole lot of things in mind for the future story. But this is how it will end now.
Fans are really rallying around the show. Trending every day, asking for an extension.
My heartfelt gratitude, love and appreciation to all the fans who are really taking the time out and tweeting. But I just want to tell them one thing, TRP Gods don’t look at people’s hard work, anyone’s minds or even the prayers from someone’s hearts. TRP Gods can only see TRPs. And TRP Gods are very difficult to please. Thank you to everybody who loved KHKT and gave me a lot of energy and my whole team a lot of assurance that we must do new things and we must do good shows. The only one thing that did not agree with us was the TRP, so I’m keeping all the audiences love, reviews, feedback, comments everything on one side, and for my next show I’m only going to pray to this TRP God.
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